First Female Diocesan Bishop Elected: (Victoria) Matthews to Move West to Emonton Diocese

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Edmonton

Canada's only woman bishop is moving west. Victoria Matthews was elected ninth Bishop of Edmonton at a special synod March 8. She was chosen on the fifth ballot from a field of 20 nominees, including two other women.

Bishop Matthews has been a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Toronto, responsible for the Credit Valley area since her consecration in 1994. She will be installed as leader of the 13,500 Anglicans in the Diocese of Edmonton, May 31, in All Saints' Cathedral.

She will join a diocese where it is "likely that finance-driven choices will be part of the reality facing the new bishop for the foreseeable future," according to a memorandum sent to all nominees. The diocese, which covers a wide strip across central Alberta, suffered reduced income and financial difficulties in the early 1990s but its situation now is said to have stabilized. There are 58 parishes and 62 congregations, served by 65 active clergy and chaplains.

Born in 1954, Bishop Matthews attended Trinity College, was ordained deacon in 1979 and priest a year later. All her ministry has been in Toronto. She has served on various General Synod bodies and chairs the recently formed Primate's Theological Commission. She is also a member of the planning team for the worldwide Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in 1998.

Advised of her election, Bishop Matthews responded, "The church has prayed; the Spirit has led us; the church has called me; I accept."

And what did she do when she first heard she was elected?

"Swallowed," she laughed, later, in an interview. "I did not expect to be elected, and so it was a total surprise ... I was completely thrown."

Bishop Matthews said she is excited about moving to Edmonton, which she has actually only visited once, two years ago, when she led a clergy retreat a year after being elected bishop in Toronto.

"If one more person tells me to take long underwear...," joked the bishop, who finds some reactions to her new posting amusing. "The comments are unreal: `Does a snowmobile come with the job?' `Do you like winter?' Some one told me about a snowfall in July. It happened in 1944, but he never forgot it."

The Primate, who was at synod for the last ballot before leaving for an all-primates meeting in Jerusalem, notified all the Canadian bishops of the election in a letter.

"I can attest to the enthusiasm of the synod and their consciousness of taking a historic step in the first election of a woman as a diocesan bishop," wrote Archbishop Michael Peers. "I know we'll all join in supporting Victoria in this significant change in her responsibilities."

The synod was chaired by Archbishop Barry Curtis of Calgary, Metropolitan (chief bishop) of Rupert's Land, which includes 10 dioceses in northwestern Ontario, the three Prairie provinces, and the Northwest Territories. …